It's never a great sign of the times when you wake up every day and know you need to check the news before starting work to see what the newest challenges are you're going to have to deal with. Unfortunately, this trend became standard practice within our industry in 2018. Typically, most companies spend their time and money trying to find new ways to speed up service or new products to help their customers. But for most of this past year, it was about working closely with your customers on their existing business to minimize damage from all the new costs that were quickly being added to our industry.
As a designer and manufacturer of custom battery packs for high reliability applications, our customers are continually demanding that we make packs that are smaller, have more power, run longer, and all at a competitive cost as they try to make their devices more portable.
Tariffs and trade with China has been a hot topic in the news recently. The tariffs impacting the steel and automobile industries have been widely covered but there are many additional industries that could potentially feel the effects of these tariffs, including our own.
“The power of the Internet of Things comes from the ability to collect a lot of data and convert that into useful information.” -Bertil Thorvaldson, ABB Robotics
While that is a very simple concept to understand, manufacturing Internet of Things (IoT) technology into most products can be a significant investment of time and money for companies. As a designer and manufacturer of medical, commercial, industrial, and military products, we are working with many customers on implementing IoT into their products to improve the customer experience and provide an additional revenue stream.
When it comes to manufacturing custom electronics, there are tons of companies out there that can do anything once. The true value of a manufacturing partner is a company that not only has the capability to manufacture your product fast to help you get to market quicker and cost effectively, but also consistently. Effectively accounting for Engineering Change Orders (ECOs) and product changes are factors that often get overlooked in manufacturers. Failing to find a supplier with stable speeds, costs, and a consistent process can cause major headaches down the line.
There are a lot of good things happening right now for many folks in the electronics manufacturing industry in the United States. The economy is going strong, unemployment rates are dropping, and there has been growth in the PCB industry over the past four months which hasn’t happened since May of 2016 according to the U.S. Purchasing Managers’ Index.
Over the past several years there have been several instances where battery suppliers that manufacture the highest technology batteries have run into financial difficulties (think A123, Boston Power) or change their business model and no longer want to supply small/medium volume applications (Panasonic). This has created several problems for OEMs as they have designed these cells and have passed all of the certification testing for UL, EMI, CE and UN DOT 38.3.
Even though the last financial crisis was over 8 years ago, most engineering departments at electronic OEMs have never fully staffed back to the levels that they were before the economic disaster. That means that there are many engineers doing two or more jobs, all while their senior management still insists on meeting tight timelines with limited budgets.
All companies judge themselves on simple things like revenue, expenses, and income. Most manufacturing companies measure even more metrics like capacity utilization, yield, inventory turns, and on-time delivery. All of which are very important to ensure that business is profitable.
Today, there are well over 3,000 companies that manufacturer printed circuit boards (PCB) in Asia (China, Taiwan, Japan, India, Korea, Thailand) with the supply capacity continuing to grow well ahead of the global demand.